People with communication as a strength in its “mature” form have a gift for putting their thoughts into words and saying just the right words. But when people use their communication strength in its “raw” form, they become too talkative, tell stories that are too long and disrupt meetings.

What about analytical people who are great at looking at problems and understanding situations from every angle? In the mature form, they use their analytical strength and ask insightful questions to thoroughly break down a situation. However, when they use their analytical strength in its raw form, they ask so many questions that you can’t even finish your thought. Most of their questions derail the conversation and are not relevant to understanding the issues.

Our strengths are neutral. No particular strength is better or worse than another. The challenge is to identify our strengths, use them more often, and be aware if we are using them in their raw or mature form.

The Benefits of Mature Strengths for Employee Development

In its research on strengths spanning four decades, Gallup has found that when employees refine their natural talents and develop them into strengths, and that when workers are given the opportunity to do what they do best every day, the effect on organizational, team and employee development and performance is powerful.

Employees become more productive, perform better and engage more. People who use their strengths every day are six times more likely to be engaged on the job. Teams that focus on their strengths are 12.5 percent more productive than those that don’t. Gallup’s research also shows that people have greater success when they have the opportunity to lead with their strengths and focus on what they do best. The result is people who learn faster, work harder, advance further and stay longer.

Developing Your Own Strengths

Here are questions to consider as you identify your own strengths:

  1. What are your top five strengths? You may want to take the Clifton StrengthsFinder assessment to help you identify your strengths (for a small fee).
  2. How do each of these strengths work for and against you?
  3. What could be the impact if you used each strength closer to its mature form?

We all have strengths. The issue is whether we—and others around us—use our strengths in a mature, or positive, way, or whether we use them in a raw, or detrimental way. Depending on where we fall on this “raw-to-mature spectrum,” we will experience dramatically different results.